If you are planning on visiting China then you must go to see the temples and monasteries. Temples are an important part of China’s Buddhist heritage and culture apart from Buddhist grottoes, mountains, and religious sites like the Leshan Giant Buddha. There are a lot of famous temples in China with magnificent layouts and traditional Chinese architecture. Here are the top 10 temples in China.
- The Temple of Heaven, Beijing 北京天坛
Dated back to the 1420, the Temple of Heaven has been listed as World Cultural Heritage. The entire Confucian structure was built for an emperor known as the “Son of Heaven” who used the altar to pray for his people’s good furtune. Its design reveals the mystical cosmological laws believed to control the working of the universe and the harmony between “heaven” and earth. The highlight of the park is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests with a triple-eaved purplish-blue umbrella roof mounted on a three-tiered marble terrace. Tourists are also attracted to echo walls where a whisper can be heard from one end to the other.
- Nanshan Temple, Sanya 三亚南山寺
This South China temple is named after a popular Buddhist saying — “Good fortune is much as the East Sea; longevity is high as Nanshan”. It features a towering 100-meter (350-foot) glimmering white statue built onto a rocky outcropping in the South Sea of Sanya. The entire temple grounds is built with this statue as the focal point. Its main entrance plaza, surrounded by ornate white spires, reaches out to the statue in the sea with a wide walkway. A beautiful pond sits on one side of the walkway and a cluster of woods to the other to funnel your attention to the impressive, three-sided statue.
Other attractions in the temple include the Golden Jade Guanyin Statue and Sea Watch Terrace.
- South Putuo Temple, Xiamen 厦门南普陀寺
The temple hosts thousand-hand Buddha, golden carvings of the Chinese character , Wulao Peak, and the grand and massive buildings.
The Hall of Celestial Kings, Great Buddha’s Hall, the Hall of Great Mercy, and the Depository of Buddhist Texts also hosts famous Bodhisattva statues.
- Famen Temple, Xi’an 西安法门市-the Ninth Wonder of the World
Famen Temple is famous for important Buddhist relics. It was built at the end of the the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220). The UNESCO described it as the ninth wonder of the world.
In 1987, after the opening of the underground palace in Famen Temple, over 2000 cultural relics dating back to Tang Dynasty were found, including Buddha’s relics, gold & silver relics, colored glaze, ceramics, silk, figure of Buddha, and the FingerSarira of Sakyamuni. There are four sarira found, and three of them are called duplicate relics and used to protect the true relic –the finger bone of Sakyamuni. This sacred finger sarira is the fifth sarira of Sakyamuni found in China. Then, Famen Temple became a popular Buddhist site for pilgrimage. The Finger Sarira of Sakyamuni was only displayed in weekends, the lunar 1 st and 15th day of every month, and some special festivals usually.
Famen Temple now can be divided into three parts–Old Famen Pagoda, Namaste Dagoba and Famen Temple Museum. The Underground Palace was located in the old Famen Pagoda, and three duplicate relics were cherished in the Underground Palace usually. The Namaste Dagoba was designed in a shape of folding hands. The sarira of Sakyamuni was housed in this dagoba. The Famen Temple Museum has valuable treasures and the Gilded Bronze Buddha, Silver Container, Mystic Color Ceramics and so on.
- Jokhang Temple, Lhasa 拉萨大昭寺-Spiritual Center of Tibet
Jokhang is the holiest destination for Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace”. It is known to have been chosen as a place of preference by the wife of King Songtsan Gampo, the Tang Princess Wen Cheng. It is said she had the temple built at the location to counteract evil forces she believed came from the nearby Wutang lake.The temple was called the Tsulag Khang or ‘House of Wisdom’ but it is now known as the Jokhang which means the ‘House of the Lord’. Jokhang Temple houses many invaluable cultural relics. It hosts a life-sized Buddha statute and hosts the Great Prayer Festival between January and early March.
The temple is the fine product of Han, Tibetan and Nepalese architecture techniques. The whole structure of Jokhang Temple was designed according to the shape of Manda. What will catch your eyes are the beautiful Gold Roof, the Barkhor Street, Potala Palace, sacred statues of Buddha housed in the chapels. The hanging Thangkas are also worthy of your appreciation. At Jokhang Temple Square, there are continuous waves of devoted pilgrims prostrating themselves day and night.
There is a walled enclosure in front of the Jokhang which contains some willows called the Jowo Utra (‘Hair of the Jowo’) and a doring or inscribed pillar erected by the Chinese in 1793 during a smallpox epidemic. It records the Sino-Tibetan treaty of 822 concluded by King Ralpacan and includes ‘China and Tibet’s vow of eternal peace and mutual respect of the borders of their independent states’ as well as advice on hygiene measures to prevent smallpox.
The Jokhang Temple complex has several decorated shrines and rooms. The main hall of the temple houses the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also famous statues of Chenresig, Padmasambhava and King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides, Princess Wen Cheng (niece of Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty) and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.
- Wannian Temple, Mount Emei 峨眉山万年寺
It was initially built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317–420), then destroyed by a fire later on, but was rebuilt in 1953. According to a legend, a special kind of frog resides in the rectangular pond to the right of the temple, and people can hear melodious sounds from the pond in the evening.
There are three treasures in the temple: the Beamless Hall, the Puxian Buddha, and the Tooth of Buddha.
- Yonghe Lama Temple, Beijing 北京雍和宫
Yonghe Temple was initially built as the residence of Emperor Yongzheng (1693) during the Qing Dynasty. It is perhaps the most famous Tibetan Buddhist Temple outside of Tibet. The Hall of Harmony and Peace, the main room of Yonghe Lama Temple, contains three bronze Bodhisattva statues. The Lama Temple features breathtaking frescoes, a 18-meter (60-foot Buddha) in Tibetan form, tantric sculptures, gorgeous archways, handmade carpentry and dazzlingly ornate roofs.
- White Horse Temple, Luoyang 洛阳白马寺-First Buddhist Temple in China
Known as the cradle land of Chinese Buddhism, White Horse Temple was initially built as a summer resort for Emperor Liu Zhuang during the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). It was the first Buddhist Temple built in China.
In front of the gate, you can see two stone horses. Walk in and you will find two tombs of the first Indian monks in the temple. After visiting the halls in sequence, you can explore the palace of translating scriptures–Cool and Clear Terrace. Outside the temple is tiered with Qiyun Pagoda (oldest pagoda in China ) and foreign temple, including Indian Temple, Thailand Temple and Burmese Temple, showing the cultural exchange between China and other countrie
- Daxiangguo Temple, Kaifeng 开封大相国寺
First built in the Northern Qi Dynasty (550–577), Daxiangguo Temple was once used as a worship place for the royal family, and hosted national Buddhist activities. It is a national AAAA tourist spot as one of the ten famous monasteries and temples in China.
At present, the existing structures of the monastery are the Grand Hall, the Octagonal Hall, the east and west chambers, and other buildings holding Buddhist sutras. Inside the Octagonal Hall there is a wooden statue of Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) Bodhisattva with many hands and eyes which was carved during the reign of Emperor Qian Long (1736 -1795) of the Qing Dynasty and which is regarded as a masterpiece of wood carving from that era.
- Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou 杭州灵隐寺-Peaceful Temple in Lush Forest
Lingyin Temple was originally built in 326 AD by an Indian monk. Linyin means soul’s retreat. It is one of the largest and wealthiest in China.
The first building on the axis of Lingyin Temple is Hall of Heavenly Kings, housing the Future Buddha. In the Grand Hall of Great Sage sits a screaming statue of Sakyamuni on a lotus flower. On the back side of this statue is a group of tridimensional statues, including Bodhisattva with 150 small figures. The Palace of Medicine Buddha is really worshipped by most people for removing their diseases. You’ll have to pay for admission to the mountainous Lingyin-Feilai Feng Scenic Area which is full of bridges, monuments, statues, grottoes, artwork and pavilions. The numerous Buddhist carvings inside the grottoes of Feilai Peak is a treasure to appreciate